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Food allergy education, advocacy, and support

Dining Out

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Dining out while having a food allergy involves planning and preparation.

Identifying the Restaurant

There are various web sites that list allergy friendly restaurants, including:

It’s important to do your homework in advance.

  • Look up menu’s online
  • Call ahead to speak to a manager about the possibility of getting a safe meal.
    • Simple questions can give you an idea of the restaurants experience with food allergies quickly
    • For example: How should I go about getting a safe meal for my food allergic child when we arrive at the restaurant; should I ask to speak with the manager?
    • For Example: We have food allergies, I am wondering if it will be possible for you to accommodate our “treenut” allergy?
    • If the manager doesn’t know what a treenut is or what an allergy is, then it’s time to call another restaurant.
  • Check out AllergyEats to see other allergy families experiences with restaurants

Ask Questions

  • Don’t ever hesitate to ask to speak to the manager or chef
  • The restaurant staff should provide confident answers to all of your questions.  If you’re not comfortable with their responses, leave and find another restaurant.

What to bring

  • Two epinephrine auto injectors and Benadryl
  • Food from home in the event you arrive at the restaurant and for whatever reason feel it is unsafe
  • A Chef Card, which can be given to your server to help identify and remind the kitchen of the food allergy and cross contamination issues. Chef cards
    can be found and printed on the following web sites:

Upon arrival, inform the staff about your food allergies.

  • If you’re not confident in your server’s knowledge and understanding, speak to the manager and/or chef. Ask detailed questions about the menu, ingredients, and protocols, and how they protect against cross-contact.
  • Most importantly, if after speaking to the manager or chef you’re still not entirely comfortable, leave and find another restaurant.
  • Consider using a Chef Card or an Allergy Note – the server can hand the paper to the chef directly

When your meal arrives, politely ask the server again if they’re sure the meal is free of your allergens

This is yet another opportunity to communicate with the restaurant staff to confirm that you have received the correct, allergen-free meal.

Be Prepared

  • Even the most conscientious restaurants can make mistakes. Always carry your child’s Epi-Pen, Benadryl or other allergy medications.
  • If your child is traveling with their coach or another parent, be absolutely sure they know the signs of an allergic reaction, how and when to administer the medicine, and how to reach you in case of an emergency.
  • If your child is visiting a restaurant without, call ahead and make sure a safe meal can be made for him/her. Alert the restaurant to the time/date of the meal and see if you can even pre-order the safe meal

Dine at off-peak hours, when possible.

  • Restaurant staff are often better able to take the proper precautions with your order when they’re less busy.

Visually inspect your meal.

One more “double check” to make sure there isn’t any visible allergen in the meal.

 

Try to demonstrate to your child that eating out can be safe and involve them when you
can in the steps to eating out safely. One day when they are older and out on their own
they will thank you for showing them how to safely go out with friends.

 

After a safe and happy dining experience, thank the staff, leave a generous tip, recommend the restaurant to others, and visit again.

Rate your experiences.

When you dine out, whether your restaurant experience was positive or negative – or somewhere in between – do the food allergy community a
great service by rating each restaurant on AllergyEats. Rating a restaurant is simple and quick (it takes less than a minute) and helps other food-allergic individuals determine which restaurants to visit – and which to avoid.

Dining out with food allergies can seem daunting, but it is possible to have a safe and comfortable experience. It takes a little effort, but the results are well worth it.